Kootenay conservation officers believe someone intentionally poisoning wolves

2 wolves dead of suspected poisoning; officers believe there may be more

By Matt Meuse, CBC News <http://www.cbc.ca/news/cbc-news-online-news-staff-list-1.1294364> Posted: May 18, 2017 1:55 PM PT Last Updated: May 18, 2017 1:55 PM PT

Conservation officers in B.C.’s East Kootenay region say someone appears to have left poison in a wolf travel corridor in order to kill wolves moving through the area. <https://i.cbc.ca/1.3961702.1485969914%21/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/lone-wolves.jpg>

Conservation officers in B.C.’s East Kootenay region say someone appears to have left poison in a wolf travel corridor in order to kill wolves moving through the area. (Shutterstock / Dennis W Donohue)

Conservation officers in B.C.’s East Kootenay are investigating after the discovery of two wolves they believe were intentionally poisoned.

Conservation officer Greg Kruger said poison was first discovered in early March in the Dutch Creek region, west of Canal Flats — an area known for its active wolf population.

“Where all these … poison containers have been found are all areas that we know are wolf travel corridors,” Kruger said. “So our investigation is looking at someone specifically targeting the wolf population.”

Discovered by dog owner

Kruger said a man contacted them in early March after his dog found and ate from something that looked like a white cupcake container in the area.

“Within a few minutes, that dog became ill [and] started having convulsions,” Kruger said.

The dog was treated by a vet and survived. Conservation officers investigated the area, and, over the course of a few weeks, found 17 different batches of poison along the same road within several kilometres of each other.

Kruger said a sample of the suspected poison tested positive for strychnine — a toxic chemical commonly used in rat poison.

Likely more dead wolves, poison traps

Then, in early April, two wolf carcasses were reported to conservation officers by members of the public.

Kruger said toxicology tests have not yet come back, but officers suspect poisoning, as there is no evidence of any other cause of death.

Kruger says it’s likely there are more dead wolves in less publicly accessible places that have yet to be discovered — and possibly more poison.

“[The containers we found] are all white, so we believe they were placed in the snow to blend in so they wouldn’t be detected,” Kruger said. “We’ve only found them since the snow has started to melt.”

Kruger asked anyone with information to contact the East Kootenay Conservation Officer Service.

He said under the Wildlife Act anyone found to be intentionally poisoning wolves could face a fine of up to $1 million and more than a year in jail.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/kootenay-wolf-poisonings-1.4121946

Dog’s Death Spotlights Use of Cyanide ‘Bombs’ to Kill Predators

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/wildlife-watch-wildlife-services-cyanide-idaho-predator-control/

One of the weapons the U.S. government uses to poison predators killed a pet Labrador in Idaho, sparking new calls to ban the devices.

Fourteen-year-old Canyon Mansfield was out walking the family Labrador, Casey, on public land in the outskirts of Pocatello, Idaho, last month. As they roamed a hill near their home, Canyon spied a piece of metal protruding from the snowy ground that resembled the head of a garden sprinkler. When he bent down to touch it, the device exploded, jolting him off his feet and emitting a powdery substance. Some of the granules got into his eyes, which he scrubbed out with wet snow.

The bulk of the substance blew downwind into Casey’s face. Within a minute the dog was writhing with convulsions, a reddish foam emanating from his mouth. In front of Canyon, the yellow Lab made guttural sounds then went still.

Heeding the cries for help, Canyon’s parents, Theresa and Mark Mansfield, rushed to the scene. Theresa cradled the dog while Mark, a family physician, administered chest compressions. He was about to try mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when Canyon shouted, “Don’t do it, Dad, I think Casey’s been poisoned.”

All three of them had some of the residue on their skin and clothes. Only by luck did it not get into their mucous membranes, and only later did they learn that this wasn’t just any poison. It was sodium cyanide—a federal Category One toxicant and one of the deadliest substances on Earth.

“When it went off, I was so confused because it caught me by surprise and happened so fast,” Canyon said. “I panicked because the next thing I knew Casey was dying.” Since the incident Canyon has been suffering from headaches, a telltale symptom of exposure to cyanide.

Sodium cyanide is considered by the Department of Homeland Security to be a potential weapon for terrorists. It’s a key ingredient in the M-44s, or “cyanide bombs,” used by Wildlife Services, an obscure agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to kill wildlife predators on public and private lands in the West.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an average of 30,000 M-44s, deployed by the federal government in concert with Western states and counties, are triggered each year. Baited to entice animals, they’re indiscriminate in their victims. So far, no humans have been killed by M-44s. But according to an investigation by theSacramento Bee, 18 Wildlife Services employees and several other people were exposed to cyanide by M-44s between 1987 and 2012, and between 2000 and 2012 the devices killed more than 1,100 dogs.

Established 120 years ago under a different name, Wildlife Services exists primarily for the benefit of the livestock industry. The agency spends more than $120 million a year killing animals deemed “nuisances” to humans: everything from coyotes and wolves to mountain lions, bears, foxes, bobcats, prairie dogs, and birds (in part to prevent collisions with planes at airports). During the past decade the agency has killed some 35 million animals. It killed 2.7 million in 2016 alone.

In recent disclosure forms Wildlife Services reported that out of 76,963 coyotes killed in 2016 for livestock protection, 12,511 were felled with M-44s. Another 30,000 were gunned down by sharpshooters from fixed-wing planes and helicopters, and 15,000 more died in choking neck snares.

WILDLIFE SERVICES ADHERES TO A MIND-SET BETTER SUITED TO ROGUE COWBOY CULTURE OF THE 19TH CENTURY.

PETER DEFAZIO U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

“Predators are a problem [for ranchers], and some of the predators are a problem for game animals,” says John Peavey, a longtime rancher near Carey, Idaho, who has battled coyotes and wolves getting into his cattle herds and sheep flocks. “These devices [M-44s], ugly as they are, are important. They should be highly supervised. They should not be set close to places where people recreate. But they are a tool, especially if properly used.”

While Peavey has sympathy for the Mansfields, he says the press has a fascination with writing only about the predator controversies and poisons when the real issue is maintaining the condition of Western rangelands. He believes some anti-livestock activists are using the poison issue to renew calls for prohibiting cattle and sheep from grazing on public lands.

For decades, however, environmentalists, animal welfare advocates, and some politicians have pushed for Wildlife Services to be radically reformed—if not abolished—arguing that it’s an anachronism.

“Wildlife Services, with much of what it does, adheres to a mind-set better suited to rogue cowboy culture of the 19th century, and it’s just not consistent anymore with modern values,” U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, told National Geographic by phone last week. Over the years DeFazio has pressed for investigations into Wildlife Services related to alleged animal cruelty, budget irregularities, illegal use of toxic chemicals, and convoluted statistics as to how many animals it actually destroys. “It’s an agency that lacks transparency and accountability, and I believe it’s out of control,” De Fazio said.

In a documentary titled, EXPOSED: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife, former agency trappers corroborate that assertion.

DeFazio said the agency has managed to dodge significant oversight in Congress because of resistance from lawmakers, primarily in the West, who say that lethal removal of predators is essential to protecting the livelihoods of ranchers grazing cattle and sheep on public and private lands.

INCIDENT UNDER REVIEW

Following Casey’s death, Wildlife Services has been mostly silent.

In response to repeated phone calls from National Geographic to offices at local, regional, and national levels, its Washington, D.C., communications office issued the same written statement it circulated on March 17 and has made no further comment since. The statement noted that the incident was under review, that procedures are designed to minimize unintentional run-ins with pets, that precautions were taken and signs put up as warnings, and that such accidents are rare, this being the first in Idaho involving M-44s since 2014.

Dan Argyle, a captain in the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, told National Geographic that no warning signs were observed at the scene and that a second M-44 had been positioned nearby, then removed by the trapper who put it there.

“As a program made up of individual employees, many of whom are pet owners, Wildlife Services understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses,” the Wildlife Services statement says. “We are grateful that the individual who was with his dog when it activated the M-44 device was unharmed, however, we take this possible exposure to sodium cyanide seriously and are conducting a thorough review of this inPHOTOGRAPH COURTESY THERESA MANSFIELD

The statement concluded: “Wildlife Services provides expert federal leadership to responsibly manage one of our nation’s most precious resources—our wildlife. We seek to resolve conflict between people and wildlife in the safest and most humane ways possible, with the least negative consequences to wildlife overall. Our staff is composed of highly skilled wildlife professionals who are passionate about their work to preserve the health and safety of people and wildlife.”

On its website, Wildlife Services describes the way M-44s work: “The M-44 device is triggered when a canid (i.e. coyote or wild dog) tugs on the baited capsule holder, releasing the plunger and ejecting sodium cyanide powder into the animal’s mouth. The sodium cyanide quickly reacts with moisture in the animal’s mouth, releasing hydrogen cyanide gas. Unconsciousness, followed by death, is very quick, normally within 1 to 5 minutes after the device is triggered. Animals killed by sodium cyanide appear to show no overt signs of distress or pain.”

The Mansfields, incredulous at that description, say their dog suffered an agonizing death.

Sander Orent, a toxicologist in Boulder, Colorado, has for decades been tracking the USDA’s sanctioning of biocides—including a variation of M-44s called “coyote getters,” which also use cyanide, and lethal collars around the necks of sheep filled with deadly sodium fluoroacetate—to control predator populations. Of death by M-44 he said, “You could compare it to the recent sarin gas attack in Syria because the concept of how cyanide kills is similar. It basically suffocates any living being it comes in contact with. It ties up the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. When that dog is gasping for air, it experiences an extremely uncomfortable feeling of panic and desperation, then it convulses and dies. For an animal experiencing it and a person watching it happen, it would be horrifying.”

Orent, who has served as a scientific adviser to conservationists, said that animals as large as horses and cows have died from coming in contact with M-44s. “They’re frickin’ dangerous, especially when baited. It makes me think of war-torn parts of the world where munitions are meant to look attractive to children so they pick them up.”

According to Orent, who said it was incredibly lucky that neither Canyon nor his parents died or were seriously injured, “There’s no compelling scientific justification for these devices. I think it’s awful a society like ours still allows them to be used, because they’re not necessary.”

PREDATOR AND LIVESTOCK DEATHS

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service publishes an annual report on causes of death for livestock. In most parts of the West, predators rank behind disease, bad weather, and accidents when it comes to livestock deaths.

Predators kill more sheep than cattle, and Idaho ranks in the upper tier of sheep-producing states. In Idaho in 2014 (the most recent year for which numbers are available) predators were blamed for the loss of about 4,600 of the 16,000 lambs and adult sheep that died. (Conservationists dispute the figures.) Most of the losses were lambs taken by coyotes. Predators killed less than one percent of adult sheep. Bad weather, unknown non-predator causes, and lambing problems accounted for most deaths.

The state and federal government pay compensation for livestock killed by wolves, and in some cases Idaho reimburses ranchers for animals taken by mountain lions and black bears. Damages are not paid for kills by coyotes. Payments can range from a couple of hundred dollars for a lamb to a few thousand dollars for a cow.

Consistent statistics are often out of date, and it’s hard to reconcile different numbers presented by various agencies. Ranchers often say predators take more livestock than are officially reported, but some former Wildlife Services trappers, such as Carter Niemeyer, who wrote a memoir titled Wolfer about his career as an animal control specialist, say predator kills are often exaggerated and that statistics put into reports can’t always be trusted.

BLACK-FOOTED FERRETS, THE MOST ENDANGERED LAND MAMMAL IN NORTH AMERICA, DEPEND ON PRAIRIE DOGS, POISONED IN THE MILLIONS BY WILDLIFE SERVICES.

Niemeyer was a government trapper for several decades before retiring a few years ago. As a senior Wildlife Services director in Montana, he said that he and the agency trappers who reported to him had serious misgivings about using M-44s. “Trappers didn’t like using them because they’re dangerous and kill indiscriminately,” he said. Even when Niemeyer argued that there were better options for controlling coyotes, the agency’s “clients”—ranchers—would demand that M-44s be deployed against his objections, he said, noting that M-44s can indeed kill other non-target species, including wolves, bears, imperiled wolverines, and Canada lynxes.

“I’ve had half a dozen government trappers tell me that ranchers routinely inflate the number of losses that occur,” said Brooks Fahy, founder of Predator Defense, a conservation organization in Eugene, Oregon, devoted to advancing public understanding of predators. In some cases, he said, they “aren’t suffering losses at all, yet they just want Wildlife Services to come in and prophylactically kill predators whether they’re a problem or not.”

Whatever the actual numbers, one recent study showed that the best science done on predator control reveals that non-lethal methods are more effective than lethal ones at reducing livestock losses. But because strategies such as guard dogs, range riders, flashing lights, fencing, lamb sheds, and trapping and relocating predators can be more expensive, they’re less favored.

“The whole premise for Wildlife Services’s existence is based on a crumbling foundation of misinformation,” asserts Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection manager for the Humane Society of the United States, based in Colorado. “Cattle losses from wild carnivores and feral dogs together amount to 0.23 percent of the entire U.S. cattle inventory. For that reason alone it makes no sense for the federal agents to use chemical warfare on animals.”

On April 4 the Humane Society—along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Guardians, and the Fund for Animals—sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which, under the domain of the U.S. Department of the Interior Department, has management jurisdiction over endangered species. The lawsuit alleges that the service has failed to consider the impacts of Wildlife Services poisons on protected animals such wolves, grizzly bears, swift foxes, lynxes, raptors, black-footed ferrets, and others. Black-footed ferrets, the most endangered land mammal in North America, depend on a diet of prairie dogs, which have been poisoned in the millions by Wildlife Services. As of April 20, the Fish and Wildlife Service had not responded to the suit.

A FORMER INSIDER’S EXPERIENCE

Sam Sanders, who has a degree in biology from the University of Nevada-Reno, spent seven years, from 2004 to 2011, with Wildlife Services as a trapper and manager in northern Nevada. He called attention, he claims, to alleged violations of the law and protocols, but his complaints fell on deaf ears.

Today Sanders, who resigned from Wildlife Services because he felt the agency wasn’t seriously addressing problems, is an animal control specialist in the private sector. He told National Geographic that he’s regulated more stringently now than he was at Wildlife Services. He still has a few friends at the agency and said that “WS and I compete for a variety of work, including urban work at airports, rural work protecting livestock, and wildlife protection as well. So I’m fairly well informed.”

Contrary to Wildlife Services’ claims of being an industry leader in ethical animal control, Sanders said that not all its agents monitor their equipment (M-44s, leg-hold traps, and snares) in a timely way or post adequate warning signs. With regard to leg-hold traps, Sanders says animals caught in them can linger in pain for a week before they’re put out of their misery.

Sanders doesn’t use M-44s anymore. But, he said, “If you want to control predators, M-44s are effective tools, and there are responsible trappers out there who use them. I know, because I was one of them. But M-44s can be misused, and they have been to the point where stupid things can happen, involving irresponsible management, like the incident in Pocatello.”

And, he added, M-44s are “better from an animal welfare perspective than some of the ready-available alternatives.” People can buy rat poison from hardware stores and pepper it into animal carcasses left as bait for coyotes that can also kill pets and non-target animals. Sanders said he knows of people pouring gasoline into the dens of predators or starting fires that suck all the oxygen out of animal dens, causing death by suffocation. Not long ago he learned of a trapper who claimed to use large treble fishing hooks baited with meat dangling four feet off the ground. Predators reaching for the meat would suffer a gruesome death by choking and hanging.

For those who seek a ban on the use of M-44s, Sanders cautions that “you have to think of unintended consequences. People are going to employ other alternatives and come up with their own,” he said. “Until there’s a better way that solves conflicts between predators and livestock in ranch country, predators are gonna get it one way or another. Just because you ban what you believe is the bad stuff doesn’t mean it will stop the killing.”

IS POCATELLO A TIPPING POINT?

According to Brooks Fahy, public outrage sparked by the death of the Mansfields’ dog represents a tipping point in bringing the kind of scrutiny to bear on Wildlife Services that opponents say has been lacking.

“Wildlife Services has taken a beating for its controversial aerial gunning and gassing of predators, its trapping and snaring, but its use of deadly poisons has been a dirty little secret, especially where it has placed unsuspecting people and their pets in danger,” Fahy said. “This time it can’t run away from the truth.”

The trapper working for the Idaho branch of Wildlife Services mistakenly placed the M-44 that killed Casey on Bureau of Land Management land near the Mansfields’ residential subdivision, despite the agency’s promise last November, following a review of options for dealing with predators, not to use M-44s on public land in Idaho.

“It’s a fact that it was installed on BLM land,” Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen told a reporter in Idaho. “It was about 300 yards from the residence, and there were no posted warning signs at the time this happened. All three of those are violations of the protocol.”

CANYON WILL CARRY THE MEMORY OF WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS FAVORITE DOG FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

THERESA MANFIELD CANYON’S MOTHER

On March 28 Western Watersheds, an advocacy group that monitors effects of livestock grazing on public lands, and 19 other conservation organizations submitted a petition calling on Wildlife Services to end the use of M-44 cyanide bombs in Idaho and retrieve all those now in place in the state.

Wildlife Services complied, ordering three dozen existing M-44s to be removed and temporarily banning use of M-44s in Idaho.

Congressman DeFazio said that doesn’t go far enough and that the ban needs to be applied nationwide. But, he added, at least “Idaho and Wildlife Services are now under a spotlight.” On March 30 DeFazio submitted a House bill, “The Chemical Poison Reduction Act of 2017,” calling for a total ban on M-44s in the name of public health, animal welfare, and national security.

Meanwhile the Bannock County prosecutor’s office is deciding what criminal or misdemeanor charges to bring against Wildlife Services.

Theresa Mansfield told National Geographic that no one from the agency reached out to to express sympathy for the family’s ordeal. She and Canyon went down to the Wildlife Services office in Pocatello and happened to meet the trapper who deployed the M-44.

“When I confronted him face to face, he said, ‘I’m sorry this happened to your son and dog,’ but, really, what else could he do standing in front of an upset mother and her child who could’ve been killed?” Theresa said. “It angers me that no one from Wildlife Services had the decency to reach out. All Wildlife Services did was issue a cut-and-paste statement to the public. I’ve been told they’re unwilling to apologize personally to us because that would be an admission of guilt.”

Fahy said this is consistent with Wildlife Services’ previous responses to other families who lost pets to M-44s or had members get sick by coming in contact with them. “It fits a troubling pattern. In the past Wildlife Services has actually implied that people may seek out M-44s and get their dogs killed so they might sue and collect a huge settlement from the government,” he said. “So their posture is to deny.”

On June 21, 2006, Michael J. Bodenchuk, then the state director of Wildlife Services in Utah, wrote a memo stating why he didn’t want to pay damages to a woman who lost a dog to M-44 poisoning. “I have concerns about the government settling cases with dog owners because it is all too easy for someone to intentionally take a dog into an area posted with signs with the intention of getting the dog killed,” Bodenchuk said.

Theresa and her husband are considering filing a lawsuit against Wildlife Services. They’ve written to President Donald Trump asking him to take action, and they plan to travel to Washington, D.C., in support of DeFazio’s legislation.

Never in their worst dreams, Theresa said, would they have imagined their son becoming a poster child for the need to reform a government agency. For now the couple is focusing on being profoundly grateful that their teenage son is still alive.

“Any time Canyon talks about it, his mood instantly changes,” Theresa said. “He feels responsible for what happened to Casey. He asks, ‘What if I hadn’t touched it? What if I hadn’t gone outside. He questions why he went up that hill, and I tell him that none of this is your fault. Canyon will carry the memory of what happened to his favorite dog for the rest of his life.”

Legislation introduced to ban toxic predator control poisons

  • By Shelbie Harris
  • Mar 31, 2017 

The exposure of toxic, cyanide poisoning to Canyon Mansfield, a 14-year-old Pocatello boy who triggered an M-44 predator control device, and subsequent petitions calling for a permanent ban has recaptured the attention of U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, has been trying to ban the indiscriminate use of lethal devices like Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide containing M-44 devices for decades. He recently introduced H.R. 1817, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017, which seeks to permanently ban the two deadly poisons for predator control throughout the United States.

“Look, it’s indiscriminate, and there have been numerous instances of domestic dogs being killed, and I’ve said for a number of years that it’s only a matter of time until a kid is killed,” DeFazio said. “And this recent incident in Idaho where the child watched the dog die a horrible death and he was slightly exposed is a sterling example.”

These two poisons are currently used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services predator control program, which according to its own report, killed more than 1.6 million native U.S. animals in 2016.

The device that detonated in Mansfield’s face, sent him to the hospital and, ultimately, killed his dog on March 16 was an M-44. Often known as a “cyanide bomb,” it’s a device used by the USDA to prevent predators such as coyotes from harming livestock on farm and ranch lands. When triggered, the M-44 spews a potentially lethal dose of sodium cyanide powder into whoever or whatever tugs on it.

Compound 1080 is a tasteless, odorless and colorless poison with no antidote. Although the EPA banned Compound 1080 in 1972, after intense lobbying from the livestock industry, it was re-approved for use in the “Livestock Protection Collar” (collars containing the poison that are placed around the necks of sheep and burst when punctured by a predator, barbed wire, or other sharp object) in 1985. Each of these collars contains enough poison to kill six adult humans.

“Even if a sheep is predated on with a 1080 collar, subsequently any carrion-eater that feeds on that is likely to die, that means bald eagles, golden eagles or vultures,” DeFazio said. “This kind of indiscriminate killing just has no place in Wildlife Services or controlling predators that have killed livestock.”

He continued, “They kill domestic animals who are totally innocent and they kill many predators who are innocent of depredation. It’s something that should not be out there for public land, and I don’t think they should be on private land either. If private land owners want to put them out by themselves, not subsidized by the taxpayers, OK, but these devices just need to go.”

The national wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense, as well as the Humane Society, supports the new bill.

“The fact that Wildlife Services continues to state that incidents of M-44s killing domestic dogs and exposing people to poison are ‘rare’ is an outrage,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “Those of us involved with this issue know these incidents are common-place and that countless more will never be known because of Wildlife Services’ repeated cover-ups. We applaud this legislation and thank Congressman DeFazio for his unfailing support on this issue.”

The USDA’s Wildlife Services Agency regularly uses both sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 their predator control programs, which are subsidized by taxpayers. States contract with federal predator control programs to keep so-called “predator” populations down to help ranchers protect their livestock.

“It’s high time for our own federal government to stop using sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 on our public lands,” said Wayne Pacelle, executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “These two poisons are highly lethal but completely indiscriminate. They endanger children, beloved family pets, grizzly bears, wolves and bald eagles alike. And the deaths they cause are violent and inhumane.”

The use of these poisons has led to the deaths of endangered animals and domesticated dogs and has injured multiple people in the past.

Since triggering the M-44 device, Mansfield has experienced headaches, nausea and numbness, the family said Tuesday.

Several formal petitions also surfaced Tuesday, calling for the immediate termination and removal of all devices installed in Idaho by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency. Mark Mansfield, the boy’s father and a local physician, filed one of the petitions directly to the White House.

Backed by a coalition of conservation and wildlife organizations, the Western Watersheds Project also spearheaded a direct formal petition addressed to Jason Suckow, western region director for USDA-Wildlife Services.

An additional petition filed on the website Care2 reached more than 48,000 signatures Friday evening.

“This is something that should end,” DeFazio said. “There is no central control (for Wildlife Services). Each of the state agencies are basically an entity under themselves. Some of them are totally out of control, entering into agreements that they shouldn’t and not following the rules. It’s an agency that is out of control and very dispersed.”

Mark said that although he is new to the political process of implementing new legislation, he is hopeful for change and urges people who come across the petitions to not only sign it, but also share the information on social media as much as possible.

“I’m excited, because the bill is clean, short and precise,” Mansfield said. “There is nothing extra tied to the legislation and in my mind no reasonable human being would be against it.”

E. Ore. counties drop cyanide trap use

http://www.bakercityherald.com/news/local/5195752-151/e-ore-counties-drop-cyanide-trap-use

Wildlife agencies halt practice after gray wolf accidentally killed

Katy Nesbitt

Published Mar 31, 2017 at 01:50PM

ENTERPRISE — Using cyanide traps to kill coyotes was halted in six Eastern Oregon counties to protect the region’s burgeoning wolf population.

Following the unintentional kill of a gray wolf Feb. 10 in Wallowa County, an agreement between Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency that manages gray wolves in Eastern Oregon, and USDA Wildlife Services, the federal agency that controls predators on private land, M-44s, spring-activated devices containing cyanide powder, will no longer be used to control predators in Baker, Wallowa, Union, Umatilla, Morrow and Grant counties.

A Shamrock Pack adult male, OR-48, was collared this winter on the Zumwalt Prairie, according to Mike Hansen, assistant Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist at Enterprise. Following his capture and being outfitted with a GPS collar, OR-48 went on a solo trek that took him to Baker County.

The wolf was killed when he encountered an M-44 on its return to Wallowa County. The trap was set by a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agent in an area that at the time was not designated by the state as an area of known wolf activity.

Directly after the incident Rick Hargrave, deputy administrator for ODFW’s Information and Education Division, said his agency was unaware of Wildlife Service’s use of M-44s.

Michelle Dennehy, wildlife communications coordinator, stated in an email after the incident that Wildlife Services informed the state they had removed all M-44s from areas of known wolf activity identified by ODFW.

The agencies are continuing to work together to ensure information about wolf activity is communicated effectively.

“We appreciate that Wildlife Services has voluntarily removed M-44s,” Doug Cottam, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator, said. “We also recognize we want to increase our communication between our agencies. We want to develop a more effective system to ensure that Wildlife Services’ staff working in areas with wolves know what ODFW knows about wolf activity.”

After the initial agreement between the state and federal agencies, Dave Williams, Oregon state director for Wildlife Services, said ODFW wanted an extension on the ban of M-44s in much of Northeastern Oregon.

“We were requested in writing by ODFW to immediately discontinue use of M-44s in Baker, Wallowa, Union, Umatilla, Grant and Morrow counties,” Williams said. “Prior to that request we pulled up M-44s in areas of known wolf activity and adjacent to those areas where we felt an additional margin of precaution was needed.”

Dennehy’s email said ODFW does not have regulatory authority over the coyote control work of Wildlife Services or the use of M-44s. However, the two agencies regularly work together on wildlife management including wolf management. Wildlife Services has been an important partner in helping ODFW manage wolf-livestock conflict.

Williams said moving forward it will be important for both agencies to share information on wolf sightings.

“We should know as much as ODFW where wolves are so that we can continue to do our job and continue to use the tools in our toolbox the best we can,” Williams said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Ban Lethal Poisons Compound 1080, Sodium Cyanide for Predator Control

WASHINGTON—Today Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced H.R. 1817, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017, legislation that would ban the use of the lethal poisons Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide for predator control efforts.

The bill is supported by the national wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense, as well as the Humane Society.

“I have been trying to ban the indiscriminate use of lethal devices and poisons like Compound 1080 and the chemicals used in M-44 devices for decades, even as a Lane County Commissioner,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-OR). “The use of these deadly toxins by Wildlife Services has led to countless deaths of family pets and innocent animals and injuries to humans. It is only a matter of time before they kill someone. These extreme so-called ‘predator control’ methods have been proven no more effective than non-lethal methods—the only difference between the two is that the lethal methods supported by the ranching industry are subsidized by American tax dollars.”

“The fact that Wildlife Services continues to state that incidents of M-44s killing domestic dogs and exposing people to poison are ‘rare’ is an outrage,” said Brooks Fahy, Executive Director, Predator Defense. “Those of us involved with this issue know these incidents are common-place and that countless more will never be known because of Wildlife Services’ repeated cover-ups. We applaud this legislation and thank Congressman DeFazio for his unfailing support on this issue.”

 

“It’s high time for our own federal government to stop using sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 on our public lands,” said Wayne Pacelle, Executive Director, the Humane Society Legislative Fund.” These two poisons are highly lethal but completely indiscriminate. They endanger children, beloved family pets, grizzly bears, wolves and bald eagles alike. And the deaths they cause are violent and inhumane.”

 

Compound 1080 is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless poison with no antidote. Although the EPA banned Compound 1080 in 1972, after intense lobbying from the livestock industry, it was re-approved for use in the “Livestock Protection Collar” (collars containing the poison that are placed around the necks of sheep and burst when punctured by a predator, barbed wire, or other sharp object) in 1985. Each of these collars contains enough poison to kill 6 adult humans.

Sodium cyanide is contained within M-44 devices, which are spring-activated ejectors that deliver a deadly dose of  poison when pulled on. The top of the ejector is wrapped with an absorbent material that has been coated with a substance that attracts canines. When the device is activated, a spring ejects the poison. The force of the ejector can spray the cyanide granules up to five feet.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Wildlife Services Agency regularly uses both of these poisons in their predator control programs, which are subsidized by the taxpayer. States contract with federal predator control programs to keep so-called ‘predator’ populations down to help ranchers protect their livestock.

The use of these poisons has led to the deaths of endangered animals and domesticated dogs, and has injured multiple people in the past. Most recently, three domestic dogs were killed in Idaho and Wyoming and a teenage boy was nearly poisoned after he accidentally detonated an M-44 device.

“The federal government should not be using these extreme measures,” Rep. Defazio added. “It’s time to stop subsidizing ranchers’ livestock protection efforts with taxpayer dollars and end the unchecked authority of Wildlife Services once and for all.”

M44 CYANIDE, JUST HOW DANGEROUS IS IT?

http://www.abcfoxmontana.com/story/34977973/m44-cyanide-just-how-dangerous-is-it

Posted: Mar 22, 2017 8:14 PM PDTUpdated: Mar 22, 2017 8:14 PM PDT

M44 cyanide, just how dangerous is it?
BOZEMAN –It’s a tool often used by Montana ranchers to kill livestock predators, but now, an Oregon congressman wants to ban the use of cyanide traps nationwide.

The M44 cyanide trap has been used by the United States government to control pests since the 1930’s. Montana is one of the few states in the country where ranchers, after being certified, can plant their own devices.

But many are questioning the safety and efficacy of the device. The incident in Idaho is not the first time an M44 has injured or killed the wrong target.

According to the USDA, Wildlife Services is authorized to use M44 cyanide capsules to control coyotes, Wild dogs, and red, gray and arctic foxes which are: suspected of preying upon livestock, poultry, or federally designated threatened and endangered species.

However, Brooks Fahy Executive Director of Predator Defense says thousands of animals die from this cyanide poison every year and just in the past week three dogs have died.

Fahy says, “The vast majority of the animals that they are killing like 99.9 percent of the animals they kill have never prayed on livestock.”

The USDA released a statement about the incident that happened a week ago with the boy and dog in Idaho saying, “We take this possible exposure to sodium cyanide seriously and are conducting a thorough review of this incident.  Wildlife services have removed m-44s in that immediate area, and will work to review our operating procedures to determine whether improvements can be made to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences happening in the future.”

Fahy says there are other options trappers can use other than “cyanide bombs.”

“Practice co-existence in other words proper husbandry practices when your sheep are lambing, guard dogs, fencing, and flattery.”

Jarrod Moss, a vet at Creekside Veterinary Hospital here in Bozeman says if your animal comes in contact with cyanide get them to vet as soon as possible and also make sure you protect yourself in the process.

Brooks says, “Humans are at severe risk of absorbing some of that cyanide through their skin so we need to be very careful when handling your animal, I would recommend wrapping your dog or cat in a towel or shirt, limiting your exposure.”

Fahy recalls an incident involving a man in Utah when he came in contact with the poison.

“Who had an M44 go off in his face and hit him in his chest and he got some of it in his face. He’s been disabled ever since, never able to go back to work.”

USDA says that all applicators are required to carry an antidote kit when applying or inspecting M44s and no human fatalities have been associated with wild services use of M44s.

The bill being put forth by Congressman Defazio is set to for a vote next week. We’ll continue to follow that bill as it progresses.

Pet-killing “Cyanide Bomb” Placed Illegally by Wildlife Services

Agency Promised Public in 2016 that it would stop placing them on Public Lands

BOISE, Ida. — The cyanide bomb that recently killed a family dog in Pocatello, Idaho and poisoned his 14-year-old owner violated government assurances that such poison devices would no longer be used to kill predators on federal public lands in Idaho. A 2016 decision by multiple agencies banned the use of these devices, known as “M-44s,” on all federal land in the state.

“The Bannock County sheriff’s department verified by phone with us today that GPS coordinates for the M-44 involved in the incident place the device on Bureau of Land Management land, despite a decision banning the use of these devices on federal public lands,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “It never should have been there at all.”

A plan for killing predators in Idaho on behalf of the ranching industry was signed late last year by the State, federal government, and Native American tribes, all agreeing to discontinue the use of the explosive cyanide devices on public lands. This poison and other toxins, originally banned during the Nixon administration but subsequently reinstated, had been authorized under a national plan that was decades old. Western Watersheds Project and other environmental groups successfully argued that the use of these chemicals for predator control should be reconsidered, which led to Wildlife Services’ decision to reduce their use.

“M-44s and other traps and toxic chemicals that Wildlife Services uses to kill predators are a public safety hazard,” said Talasi Brooks of Advocates for the West.  “If Wildlife Services is putting these devices in places where people recreate or walk their dogs, the public deserves to know about it.”

On other land ownerships, Wildlife Services continues to use cyanide and other poisons at the request of farmers and ranchers to reduce livestock losses. However, these devices are not selective and kill a wide variety of non-target wildlife. Rare species such as lynx, wolverines, and bald eagles, are killed every year. Tragically, the annual list of unintended targets also includes family pets.

“The incredibly dangerous devices kill indiscriminately, and deaths of pets are common,” said Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense. “Unless there are witnesses agencies often don’t record the poisonings. Families are than left to wonder what happened to their dog.”

Last year, agencies spent $99 million in taxpayer dollars to kill 2,744,010 black bears, coyotes, mountain lions, birds, wolves, and other native wildlife species. Almost 77,000 of these animals were coyotes.  Of these, 16% were poisoned by M-44s. There is evidence, however, that killing predators only reduces their numbers temporarily and, in the case of coyotes, may even encourage higher rates of reproduction and dispersal. Non-lethal methods of predator control such as guard animals, loud noises, bright flashing lights, and fencing, may be more successful without the problems associated with lethal control.

“Federal agencies need to stop planting poison land-mines that endanger the public, and asking society to accept cruel and inhumane slaughter of native wildlife simply to subsidize a dwindling livestock industry,” Molvar concluded.

Advocates for the West is a nonprofit environmental law firm that uses law and science to restore streams and watersheds, protect public lands and wildlife, and ensure sustainable communities throughout the American West.

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy.

Predator Defense is a nonprofit advocacy group working to protect native predators and end America’s war on wildlife.

AN IDAHO BOY ALMOST BECOMES A CASUALTY OF THE WESTERN WAR WAGED ON PREDATORS.

http://planetjh.com/2017/03/21/the-new-west-the-real-prey/

 

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Most readers here have probably never heard of the notorious “M-44.” It’s not a gun, but rather a different kind of weapon deployed by the U.S. government in its century-old campaign still being waged against wildlife predators.

Verbatim, this is how the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s predator-killing bureau, Wildlife Services, describes the function of M-44s: “The M-44 device is triggered when a canid (i.e. coyote or wild dog) tugs on the baited capsule holder, releasing the plunger and ejecting sodium cyanide powder into the animal’s mouth. The sodium cyanide quickly reacts with moisture in the animal’s mouth, releasing hydrogen cyanide gas. Unconsciousness, followed by death, is very quick, normally within 1 to 5 minutes after the device is triggered. Animals killed by sodium cyanide appear to show no overt signs of distress or pain.”

Repeat that last line again, italics placed here for emphasis: “Animals killed by sodium cyanide appear to show no overt signs of distress or pain.

Should that give us solace?

Only days ago, as 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield was playing with his beloved Labrador friend, Casey, in the hills above Pocatello, Idaho, both teenage boy and dog stumbled unsuspectingly upon an M-44-like device that later was described as detonation of a “cyanide bomb.” The encounter killed the family pet that came in contact with cyanide and left Canyon’s clothing covered with chemical residue, prompting the local sheriff to declare him “lucky to be alive.”

Of course, the boys ‘parents are rightfully outraged. Other recent tragic incidents involving M-44s and pets in Wyoming, plus a wolf killed by an M-44 this February in Oregon, and a longer list of additional events that the government calls unfortunate accidents, are refueling public anger over M-44s, prompting Congressman Peter DeFazio-D, Oregon, to renew his push for a total ban.

While Wildlife Services and its cooperating local and state collaborators tout the lethal efficacy of poisoning to death intended prime targets—especially coyotes given that we are now again in the middle of another domestic sheep lambing season in the West—the dangers of M-44s are undeniable, critics say.

Namely, M-44s are menacingly super toxic and non-discriminating; in many cases needlessly used, especially on public land; and hazardous to the health of humans and pets.

Most of all, noted Brooks Fahy, a founder of the organization, Predator Defense, and a national leader in pushing to have M-44s outlawed, their deployment “reflects an archaic mindset carried forward by a federal agency out of touch with 21st century values,” he said.

A few years ago, Predator Defense produced a documentary Exposed: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife (viewable free on YouTube), that won a number of awards and even drew praise from legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

“What we desperately need is serious, objective, and transparent oversight of Wildlife Services by Congress but we haven’t had it because of Republican resistance to scrutiny of the agency’s tactics, especially from lawmakers in the rural West,” Fahy asserted. “They don’t want to know the truth; they don’t want their constituents to know the truth. They’re invested in promoting baseless propaganda which reinforces negative generalizations about predators that are just not factual.”

As numerous studies note, predator control may indeed be a culturally engrained tradition in rural corners of the West, but its rationale does not always align with the conclusions of science.  In some places, costly intervention by Wildlife Services has actually made predator conflicts worse and they’ve resulted in the killing of non-target species. In addition, as research makes clear, predators—including wolves, cougars, bears and coyotes—are actually important in helping to slow the spread of diseases in wildlife, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, because predators target sick animals.

Although Wildlife Services insists that M-44s are safe and subject to 26 different “use restrictions” mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (note: some Western federal lawmakers are now working to gut EPA’s role as a regulatory agency), Fahy says the agency and, in particular, state partners and private contractors have checkered records as noted in his film mentioned above.

On the official USDA website, it states that “Wildlife Services personnel place M-44s along game and livestock trails, ridges, fence lines, seldom-used ranch roads, coyote and fox natural travel ways, rendezvous sites, and territorial marking sites/locations. Trained personnel inspect each M-44 at least weekly. Used mostly in the winter and spring, M-44s may be used year-round in some locations. When not in use, they are stored in secured, locked locations.”(Read more: aphis.usda.gov/publications/wildlife_damage/content/printable_version/fs_m44_device.pdf)

Fahy notes the irony that M-44s are “stored in secured, locked locations,” yet as the Mansfield incident points out, they were sloppily deployed in a location that nearly cost a teenager his life.

There are instances, Fahy acknowledged, where depredation of livestock, particularly on private land, can be a problem that must be resolved through lethal removal. But he and others argue that many conflicts on public land can be better resolved through more conscientious sheep and cattle management, vigilant deployment of non-lethal deterrents such as guard dogs, range riders and fladry, especially during calving and lambing seasons, and acknowledgment that the publicly-subsidized grazing of private livestock on public lands is a privilege.

Predator Defense is among several organizations pushing to reform how Wildlife Services does business. Together, they have also sought tighter restrictions on trapping to reduce the number of pets caught in legholds and conibears near towns and reducing the killing of non-target species such as imperiled wolverines and lynx.

“With M-44s, it’s kind of like allowing a person with a loaded Glock to put a gun down on a picnic table in a public park along with a sign that reads, ‘Dangerous, do not touch.’ What would we be thinking if government agencies allowed that to happen?” Fahy said. “M-44s are more dangerous than a gun. You breathe some of this stuff in, and you’re dead.” PJH

Todd Wilkinson has been writing his award-winning New West column for nearly 30 years. It appears weekly in Planet Jackson Hole. He is author of the recent award-winning book, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek, An Intimate Portrait of 399, the Most Famous Grizzly of Greater Yellowstone only available at mangelsen.com/grizzly.

Family’s Dog Was Just Killed By This Tool — And The U.S. Government Put It There

https://www.thedodo.com/usda-m44-kills-idaho-dog-2322197701.html

“It took my dog’s life — and it could have taken my son’s.”

A boy and his dog, Casey, were taking a walk near their home in Pocatello, Idaho, on March 16 when the unthinkable happened.

The boy, 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield, noticed something sticking about half a foot out of the ground. When he touched it, there was a pop and a “siss” and orange powder shot out.

Canyon jumped back in shock. When he looked for his loyal dog, Casey, he saw him on the ground.

Casey, a 3-year-old dog who was killed by a cyanide device set out by the USDATheresa Mansfield

“He just stayed on the ground mumbling,” Canyon told the Iowa State Journal. “I thought he was playing with his toy, but I saw the toy a couple yards away from him … So, I called him again and got really scared.”

Canyon rushed toward him and held him, seeing something was terribly wrong. “[I] saw this red froth coming from his mouth and his eyes turning glassy,” he said.

He ran down the hill for help and, when he and his parents returned a few minutes later, Casey was dead.

Later the family would discover that their 3-year-old dog had been poisoned by an M44, a cyanide trap that is set out by the U.S. government to kill coyotes, luring them through scented bait.

“M44s are incredibly dangerous by nature of what they are,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a nonprofit based in Eugene, Oregon, told The Dodo. “They put a scent lurer — like urine from a coyote in her heat cycle or another smell that makes the animal want to grasp the M44 head — and any coyotes, wolves, are attracted to it. They pull on it and that’s when it goes off.”

Casey and Canyon Mansfield were best friends.Theresa Mansfield

“With children and people — they are curious,” Fahy cautioned. “It’s like putting a loaded handgun on a table.”

Casey is among the latest victims of the thousands of animals unintentionally killed by Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that kills millions of wild animals each year to make more room for human industries like raising livestock. Over 3,400 animals were mistakenly killed by M44s between 2006 and 2012, including black bears, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, ravens and foxes, as well as dogs — and that’s just what the agency has reported. Fahy suspects the actual number is even higher.

Cyanide poisoning strangles cells, making it impossible for them to absorb oxygen, essentially suffocating any animal — intended or unintended — to death.

There was little time to grieve Casey at the moment he died — Canyon had to save his own life. His father, a physician, and his mother had him take off his clothes, which were covered in orange powder. He was rushed to the emergency room for tests. Thankfully, the family believes Canyon was upwind from the poison powder. He’s alive, but he’s traumatized.

“My son Canyon, who witnessed it all, is really struggling with what happened,” Theresa Mansfield told The Dodo. “It was above our house. It makes me not feel safe. I feel like I had terrorism in my own backyard, with my own government.”

The spot where the M44 was planted and where Canyon would often take Casey for walksTheresa Mansfield

The Mansfield family had no idea the devices where there, just about 350 yards from their home, at the edge of their property line. And they weren’t the only ones — even the county sheriff didn’t have knowledge of these devices, or just how dangerous they are. The Mansfields say there also weren’t even any warning signs and they were never notified about the presence of the M44s. It was later reported that two M44s, including the one that killed Casey, were planted in this area near the Mansfield’s house on February 25.

“APHIS’ Wildlife Services confirms the unintentional lethal take of a dog in Idaho,” a spokesperson for the USDA said in a statement last week. “As a program made up of individual employees many of whom are pet owners, Wildlife Services understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses.”

The agency claims it has removed the other M44s in “that immediate area,” while conducting a review of the incident.

When The Dodo asked whether the USDA would issue an apology to the family, a spokesperson replied: “We are concerned about the individual who may have been exposed to sodium cyanide when his dog activated the M44 device. Initial reports indicated he was examined at a local hospital and released with no symptoms, and we are hopeful those reports are true. We will consider this possible exposure very seriously as we conduct a thorough review of this incident.”

“It’s something so close to my house, and it took my dog’s life,” Theresa said. “And it could have taken my son’s.” Now Theresa is hoping that their story will help make the M44s illegal. “It’s a brutal way of killing something.”

The M44 device that killed CaseyTheresa Mansfield

While the Mansfield family has only just learned, in the hardest way, about these devices, some people have been fighting to ban M44s for years. And a mere investigation into this latest incident simply isn’t sufficient, they say.

“This is another demonstration of what we’ve been saying for decades — the dangers of M44s are essentially landmines waiting to go off for a dog, endangered species or a child,” Fahy said. He estimates that hundreds, even thousands, of dogs have been killed by these devices. “This happens all the time.”

U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a bill in the past seeking to make these devices illegal — and it’s expected, given the recent slew of accidental deaths, that he’ll keep trying. “I have been trying to ban the indiscriminate use of devices like the M44 for decades,” DeFazio said in a statement recently. “The use of this device by Wildlife Services … has previously killed domestic dogs, and sooner or later, will kill a child.”

An old photo of Casey leaning in for a hug from his favorite boyTheresa Mansfield

While the USDA claims that a dog dying from an M44 is a relatively rare occurrence — the last time an animal in Idaho died from an M44 accidentally was in 2014 — there’s doubt that the supposed benefits outweigh the risks, especially since killing predators to control populations doesn’t necessarily even work.

“M44s are a terrible device for killing coyotes by cyanide poisoning, which is a nasty and sickening way to die,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Dodo recently, after a rare wolf in Oregon was killed by the device. “They should be banned both because they are indiscriminate, killing this wolf as well as often pets and animals, and because killing coyotes in this and other manners is totally ineffective.”

Last year alone, Wildlife Services intentionally killed 76,859 coyotes; 12,511 were killed by M44s. That’s an average of 34 M44s intentionally exploding per day. At least seven pets or livestock were killed by M44s last year, though the USDA doesn’t specify what kinds of animals they were. Twenty-two dogs the agency claims were “feral, free-ranging and hybrids” were also killed.

Another example of what an M44 planted in the ground looks likePredator DefenseJust days before Casey was killed, two other pet dogs were also killed by an M44 in Wyoming on March 11, though the USDA claims this was not one of their own devices. In either case, Fahey says the tools should be banned. “Bottom line, this device needs to go — immediately,” Fahy said.

Until the device is banned, others remain at risk, and the Mansfield family is trying to cope with their loss any way they can. The clothing Canyon was wearing when the M44 exploded is still in a bag outside their house, a constant reminder.

“We’re not coping very well. We’ve been really sad,” Theresa said, adding that she blames the USDA for not taking full responsibility for just how dangerous M44s essentially are. “I feel like they don’t care about that it’s a bomb and they’re probably worried about being in trouble, but they’re not willing to change that these things are bombs. They could hurt kids and little dogs. And there’s no explanation. That’s the thing that’s hard.”

Predator Defense“Our Casey was so important,” Theresa said. “He was everyone’s dog, he was my little boy’s best friend, my daughter’s running buddy.”

“I think in a way, you just feel violated,” she added. “We didn’t even know anything like that existed.”

Casey and Canyon’s dad. The dog was well-loved by the whole Mansfield family.Theresa Mansfield

To help protect pets and wildlife from these poisonous tools, you can contact your representatives to support legislation to ban these devices. You can also donate to Predator Defense.

USDACorrection: This article has been updated to reflect that bait on M44s can be many different attractants, not just the urine mixture.

USDA must rethink cyanide bombs that injured boy, killed pets, lawmaker says

This photo shows the M-44 that killed the Mansfield family's 3-year-old dog in Pocatello, Idaho.

This photo shows the M-44 that killed the Mansfield family’s 3-year-old dog in Pocatello, Idaho.  (The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office)

As was their routine, 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield and his dog raced through the backyard of his Idaho home and up the top of a nearby hill to play. Minutes later, Canyon was knocked to the ground after a cyanide bomb set by the U.S. government detonated some 350 yards from the family’s doorstep.

Canyon watched as his 3-year-old golden Labrador, Casey, lay dying, suffocating from orange-colored cyanide sprayed by an M-44 device no one had told Canyon’s family about.

“We are devastated,” the boy’s mother, Theresa Mansfield, of Pocatello, Idaho, told Fox News on Tuesday. “My dog died in less than 2 minutes. My son was rushed to the hospital covered in cyanide.”

“We had no idea they were there,” Mansfield said of the device, which she described as resembling a sprinkler head.

The dog’s death on Thursday follows a string of other recent incidents in which family pets were accidentally killed by M-44s, a controversial device used by Wildlife Services, a little-known branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture tasked with destroying animals seen as threats to people, agriculture and the environment.

Critics, including Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., say the government’s taxpayer-funded Predator Control program and its killing methods are random — and at times, illegal.

“The recent death of dogs in Idaho and Wyoming are the latest unnecessary tragedies of USDA’s Wildlife Services use of M-44 cyanide traps,” DeFazio told Fox News. “These deadly traps have killed scores of domestic animals, and sooner or later, they will kill a human.”

“It’s time to stop subsidizing ranchers’ livestock protection efforts with taxpayer dollars and end the unchecked authority of Wildlife Services once and for all,” he said.

DeFazio’s office said the lawmaker plans to reintroduce a House bill this week that, if passed into law, would ban the use of the devices for predator control.

“These deadly traps have killed scores of domestic animals, and sooner or later, they will kill a human.”

– Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Mansfield’s home on Thursday with a bomb squad to investigate the incident. The family was immediately sent to a local emergency room to be screened for cyanide exposure.

The government claims the devices are not capable of killing a child. But Idaho authorities do not agree in the case of Canyon Mansfield, who weighs only 20 pounds more than his 80-pound dog.

“He’s very lucky to be alive,” Capt. Dan Argyle of the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office said of Canyon, whose blood is still being checked for levels of cyanide.

“We’re still trying to figure out how he wasn’t affected,” Argyle told Fox News. “We think a strong wind blew it [the cyanide] downhill when the device went off — right in the dog’s direction.”

Argyle said Wildlife Services is required by law to post warning signs around the devices but said, “We did not observe any signs at the location.” Upon further inspection, authorities found a second device within yards of the Mansfield home. Both devices were planted in the ground on Feb. 25 without the family’s knowledge or consent.

Days earlier, a family walking in an area 52 miles northwest of Casper, Wyo., lost two dogs from an M-44 that detonated near a hiking trail they have walked for 20 years.

Amy Helfrieck said she heard her husband yelling on March 12 as she was antler hunting with her 8-year-old daughter, sister and brother-in-law in a prairie filled with cedar trees and rock outcroppings.

When she turned her head, Helfrieck saw her husband carrying the couple’s dog, Abby, a 15-year-old Drahthaar — a breed similar to a German wire-haired dog — down a hill.

Helfrieck, a nurse, tried to pry open the dog’s mouth.

“She was having a lot of difficulty breathing and I knew at that time she was dying,” she said.

“What I didn’t realize was that we were exposing ourselves to a very deady poison,” Helfrieck said.

Her sister’s 7-year-old Weimaraner, Molly, also was killed by the sodium cyanide trap.

In this case, Helfrieck said there were markers at the site but they were placed only 5 feet from the actual trap.

The M-44s, also known as “coyote-getters,” are designed to lure animals with a smelly bait. When an animal tugs on the device, a spring-loaded metal cylinder fires sodium cyanide powder into its mouth.

Over the years, thousands of non-target animals — wild and domestic — have been mistakenly killed by the lethal devices.

On Saturday, The Oregonian reported that a gray wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 on private land in Oregon’s Wallowa County. The wolf death was the first documented “incidental take” of its kind in the state involving a protected animal and an M-44, fish and wildlife officials told the newspaper.

Wildlife Services said it first learned of the Wyoming incident on Monday and denied any involvement in the deaths.

Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told Fox News the agency does not conduct predator control using those devices in Natrona County, where the incident occurred.

Cole, however, did confirm the “unintentional lethal take” of the Mansfield family dog in Idaho.

“As a program made up of individual employees, many of whom are pet owners, Wildlife Services understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses,” she said, noting that the agency was “very concerned” about any human exposure to the sodium cyanide.

“Wildlife Services has removed M-44s from that area, and is completing a thorough review of the circumstances of this incident,” she said.

Cole called the accidental death of family pets from M-44s a “rare occurrence,” and said Wildlife Services posts signs and issues other warnings to alert pet owners when traps are placed near their homes. She also said these devices “are only set at the request of and with permission from property owners or managers.”

The Mansfields and other familes, however, said they had no knowledge the devices were anywhere near their homes and were not familiar with how they work.

Brooks Fahy, executive director of the national wildlife advocacy organization Predator Defense, has been working for decades to ban M-44s, calling them “nothing more than land mines waiting to go off, no matter if their victim is a child, a dog or a wolf.”

“Much of the public remains totally in the dark about the fact that these deadly devices are placed on private and public lands nationwide,” Fahy told Fox News. “M-44s are totally indiscriminate. Worse yet, they are unnecessary, as the majority of the animals killed have never preyed on livestock.”